The liberalism of fools?

I cannot recommend highly enough Ken Macleod’s post (found via Crooked Timber) on how the “socialism of fools” – Engels’ description of anti-semitism – was accompanied by a sort of “liberalism of fools”, to wit, the anti-Catholicism of the pre-WWII era. Macleod, acknowledging that anti-Catholicism is rather passé these days, wonders if hatred of something else, perhaps another sect, might fill the roll as a modern liberalism of fools.

And, on a not entirely separate topic, French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo (no website, not that kind of paper) is republishing the images, along with one on its cover of Mohammed crying “It’s hard to be loved by fools”. An effort by the Conseil français du culte musulman to stop publication through the French courts was rejected on a technicality.

Chirac, however, has demonstrated that he is not, contrary to widespread belief, the biggest fool in Europe. Unlike the Danish Prime Minister, he has “condemned all manifest provocations that are liable to dangerously arouse passions.” Alas, he has only retreated to the number two slot in European political idiocy. He also said, “Anything susceptible to harm the convictions of others, particularly religious convictions, should be avoided. Freedom of expression should be exercised with a sense of responsibility.” Right on count two, wrong on count one. Responsible freedom of expression means that when you go out to offend people, you can’t claim to be surprised when they are offended. But there is little point in free speech if it is forbidden from trying to change convictions.

And round and round this totally avoidable fiasco goes.
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Danish Pastry Cooking?

As the Quartet of would-be Mideast peacemakers meets in huddled session, and as Angela Merkel does some plain talking, another closely related issue is going the rounds today (and this, and this):

“In a demonstration on the West Bank, members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened Danes in the area and told them to leave immediately, the Danish news agency Ritzau reported on Sunday. The demonstrators burned the Danish flag and called on the Palestinian authorities to cut diplomatic ties with Denmark, Ritzau said.”

“Libya has said it is closing its embassy in Denmark in protest against a series of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.”

“A roadside bomb targeted a joint Danish-Iraqi military patrol near the southern city of Basra on Monday — the first attack on Danish troops since protests against a Danish newspaper for publishing widely criticized caricatures of Islam’s prophet.”

Danish Blogger Claus Vistessen has the story as it is seen from inside Denmark:

Four months ago the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten posted 12 drawings of the muslim prophet depicting him as they saw him but with a clear provocative bordering to tactless zeal … the most notable drawing was one showing Muhammed, with a turban containing a large bomb.

The cartoons resulted in immediate protests and demonstrations from Muslims in Denmark, but to sum it all up; two very important things happened as a result of the drawings.
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German Election: Pollwatch

Today’s Handelsblatt reports that a poll carried out for N24 TV shows the CDU stabilising in the polls after last week’s Schröder Surge. The CDU was on 42%, up 1.5%, with the FDP on 6%, down 0.5%, putting the Festival of Sternness Coalition on 48.5%. The SPD sank back one percentage point to 33.5%, with the Greens unchanged on 7% and the Left on 8%, also unchanged – putting the two camps exactly level and the Ampelkoalition on 46.5%. (Regarding the “traffic light option”, it’s worth remembering that the Left and the CDU-CSU are not exactly the material of a stable opposition, and a minority government could theoretically survive by playing them off against each other.)

Interestingly, an opportunity to test the validity of electoral spread betting has come up – the betting market Wahlstreet (ouch) has the SPD on 34% and the CDU just under 40%, with Greens on 8.5%, Left on 7.5% and FDP on 7.5%. This would put the Red-Red-Green buggered imagination option in the box seat with exactly 50%, the CDU/FDP on 47.5%…and the Ampelkoalition over the finishing line with an impressive 50%. (Amusingly, given that the margin of error for the polls is 2.5%, Wahlstreet quotes to the nearest two decimal places.) Over time, it seems that votes are drifting very gradually from the smaller to the bigger parties.

You might think this is of limited interest, seeing as Guido “He’s Not Dull – He’s a Statesman” Westerwelle told the nation in last night’s TV debate that the FDP would be in opposition if the CDU/FDP ticket didn’t make it (Link to the Austrian newspaper whose website uses frames). But, not so fast!
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Madrid Bombing: Update But Not Yet A Retraction

Update: Friday morning 8:30 CET. The uncertainty about the authors of this crime continues. I think having been fairly forthright at the start, prudence on my part is now what is called for while the investigation continues. Meanwhile I think it is important we don’t lose sight of the magnitude of what has happened: 198 dead, and 1,430 injured according to the latest government figures. It is with the victims and their families that our first thoughts should go. I will post again if and when there is meaningful news, and in any event around 19.00 CET when the demonstrations will be assembling.

Now: Just to follow up on my Madrid bombing post. I have to recognise that the evidence is now more contradictory than it was this morning when I first posted. First we have the case of the van with the tape: the van in fact contained seven detonators and a tape in Arabic. The Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said the tape had recordings of verses from the Koran.

And then there is the letter to the London based al-Quds newspaper.

A letter purporting to come from Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network has claimed responsibility for the train bombings in Spain, calling them strikes against “crusaders”, according to a London-based Arabic newspaper.

“We have succeeded in infiltrating the heart of crusader Europe and struck one of the bases of the crusader alliance,” said the letter which called the attacks “Operation Death Trains”. There was no way of authenticating the letter, a copy of which was faxed to Reuters’ office in Dubai by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.

So I have to recognise that I may have got it wrong. The emphasis here is on may. If I do have it wrong I seem to be in good company, the UN itself just reached the same conclusion and the first version edition of the Spanish left-of-centre newspaper El Pais has run with a headline similar to that of my original post . One additional question which concerns me is how it was that Batasuna were themselves so rapidly on the Islamic trail. I mean if this isn’t Eta, there has been a terrible failing in international security. The CIA has no information, but Batasuna apparently sees ‘indications’: I don’t quite know what to make of that. Since I’ve presented my own views sufficiently before, and since I may have misjudged things, I present below some alternative hypotheses.
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Sometimes, the bad get their comeuppance

Conrad Black – quite possibly the worst newspaper owner in the history of Canada – has agreed to resign from his chairmanship at Hollinger International, essentially ending his career as a political figure and opinion-maker. Hollinger, the owner of the Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post, used to own a number of Canadian newspapers, including the fishwrap known as the National Post.

As an unending source of American right-wing propaganda abroad, Black had a reputation as a blowhard who was largely out of step with the actual residents of the places he published newspaper. Mark Shainblum, author of the Canadian political comic Angloman, one portrayed him as one of the triumvirate ruling Torontorg, a parody of the Star Trek aliens the “Borg”, along with his wife Barbara “feminism is totalitarianism” Amiel. “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

Conrad Black, a British-Canadian dual citizen prevented temporarily from receiving royal honours by his nemisis Jean Chrétien, has been forced to resign because of his involvement in US$32 of “informal” executive pay outside of the knowledge of Hollingers’ audit committee.

He is survived by his creation, the Hollinger Group. Hollinger, once owner of much of Canada’s print media, suffered a debilitating crisis in 2001 which saw the loss of Black’s personal project – Canada’s National Post and the bulk of the newspaper group’s assets. Hollinger stock is up 18% on news of his departure.